J.D. Greear: Humility and Hope: My Prayer for the Southern Baptist Convention

1895 reads

There are 14 Comments

G. N. Barkman's picture

J. D. Greear is well known in my area.  One of his many campus churches is about 3 miles from my house.  (It appears that most of his growth, at least in our area, is by people moving to his church from other churches.  We've had two families move to the Summit.  Other churches have had a great many more.)

I remain a bit skeptical.  I don't see much difference between his approach, and most of the other mega churches with a big personality pastor who preaches at one location, and everybody watches him on a big screen at the satellite locations.  It's the current fad, but I'm not convinced its the soundest approach.  However, his election is not surprising.  A growing number of SBC pastors are emulating the contemporary approach to "doing church."  Those who do it best (ie. grow the fastest), are the biggest heroes in the SBC.  A few years ago, it was Rick Warren.  Now its JD Greear.  In five or ten years, it will be somebody else.

G. N. Barkman

Bert Perry's picture

I like how he specifically talks about their sin and admits the hope is in Christ, not the quality of their leaders. 

I have to admit, though, that I share GN's hesitation about bigness.  Is it real, organic growth, or is it spiritual cannibalism--taking the members of other churches?  And is that growth growth in depth, or is it the Platte--a mile wide and an inch deep?  Time will tell. 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Greg Long's picture

JD Greear is very different than Rick Warren.

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

G. N. Barkman's picture

Greg,

Glad to hear you say so, but could you be a bit more specific.  In what ways is he different?

G. N. Barkman

Greg Long's picture

Trevin Wax: It’s helpful to lay these misconceptions on the table and to talk honestly about our differences. You make the case that Muslims do worship the same God as Christians, although with obvious errors in understanding. Can you elaborate on how you came to this conclusion and how you would maintain major distinctions between Muslim and Christian understandings of God?

J.D. Greear: This is a tough question that has a considerable amount of complexity to it. But at the end of the day, I think the question of whether or not you use the Arabic name for God – Allah – is more of a practical question than a theological one.

Theologically speaking, there is of course only one God. But as I note throughout the book, we see several places where Jesus or the Apostles confronted someone who believed wrong things about God, yet Jesus and the apostles engaged them with the common ground of, “let’s talk about that God you think you know and He is really like.”

For example, in John 4, when Jesus deals with a Samaritan woman who was considerably off on several points about God, Jesus told her that the problem was she did not understand the God that she claimed to worship. Many of the Jews to whom the Apostles spoke did not believe in the Trinity and found it blasphemous. Does that mean that the Jews worship a different God? A better, and more Biblical approach (in my view) is to take the God that they claim to understand and show them what His true revelation is like.

Practically speaking, however, you have to determine whether or not it is more helpful or more harmful to use the Islamic name for God. It is harmful when use of the Islamic name for God cause people to assign the false characteristics to God. But that doesn’t have to happen just because you use the name. For example, Our English word, “God,” comes from German Gott, the name of a false deity. But no one would say that today we confuse the two and assign the qualities of Gott to God.

With Muslims, I would say that more often than not it is more helpful to use the Arabic name for God. They understand that to be the God of Adam, Abraham, Moses, David, and Jesus. That’s a good place to start. Then you can say, “This God you worship, here is what He is really like, according to the revelation.” That said, I would leave this question mostly to the discretion of the person who is on the field in a given situation.

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevin-wax/reaching-muslims-for...

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Greg Long's picture

G.N., Greear is not seeker-sensitive.

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Greg Long's picture

Misconception 3: Muslims seek to know a different God than Christians do.

This is controversial, but hear me out. Muslims claim to worship the God of Adam, Abraham, and Moses. Many missionaries find it therefore helpful to start with Muslims using the Arabic term for God, “Allah” (meaning literally, “the Deity”), and from there to explain that the God Muslims seek to worship, the God of the Prophets, was the God present in bodily form in Jesus Christ, revealed most fully by him, and the One worshipped by Christians for the past two millennia. This is not the same as saying that becoming a Muslim is like a “first step to becoming a Christian.” And it certainly doesn’t mean that Islam is an alternate way of getting to heaven. It simply means that we are both referring to the only, One deity when we say “God.”

You might ask, “But isn’t the Islamic God so different from the Christian God that they cannot properly be called by the same name?” Perhaps. The question about whether to say that “Allah” refers to the wrong God (or to wrong ideas about the right God) is a highly nuanced one, and there’s not an easy answer. There is no doubt that Muslims believe blasphemous things about God, and their beliefs about Allah grew out of a distorted view of Christianity. The same could be said, though to a lesser degree, of the view of God of the first-century Sadducees, as well as the Samaritan woman, and (to an even lesser degree) the fifth-century Pelagian heretics—not to mention a lot of the medieval Scholastics.

The question is whether the presence of these heretical beliefs (and what degree of heresy in them) demands that we say, “You are worshipping a different God.” Clearly, the Apostles did not say that about the first-century Jews who rejected the Trinity (even though Jesus said their father was the devil!). And Jesus did not tell the Samaritan woman in her ethnic, works-righteousness distorted view of God that she was worshipping a different God, either. Instead, he insisted that she was worshipping him incorrectly and seeking salvation wrongly. And I’ve never heard anyone say that the Pelagian heretics worship a different God, even though they have been regarded (rightly) as heretics.

At the same time, Paul never said, “Zeus’s real name is Jehovah,” as if the Greeks were worshipping the true God wrongly. So, the question is: is the Muslim view of Allah more like that of Zeus or of the Samaritan woman’s heretical conception of God? That’s a tough question, and one that we need to let the context determine. For instance, many Christians find the use of “Allah” more misleading than helpful. For them, “Allah” falls in the “Zeus” category.

On the other side, however, are many faithful Christians working among Muslims who approach the question of Allah much like Jesus corrected the Samaritan woman. “You are seeking to worship the one God, but you are wrong in your view of him, and wrong in how you seek salvation from him. Salvation is from the Jews.” In my time with Muslims over the years, I’ve found that to be a more helpful starting place. This isn’t driven by a desire to be politically correct, but by a desire to start where Muslims are, and to bring them to faith in the one and only Son of God, Jesus.

When talking with Muslims about the gospel, we need to eliminate any unnecessary distractions. The necessary ones, after all, will be tough enough. We must view Muslims with charity, refusing to pigeonhole them. We live in a world of stereotypes, but love can overcome what political correctness can’t. To listen to someone without prejudice is the beginning of loving them. In other words, “Do unto others” applies here as well: let’s see others as they would like to be seen.

https://jdgreear.com/blog/three-christian-misconceptions-about-muslims/

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

mesly33's picture

Greg, thank you for the further information about his approach to evangelizing Muslims. While I don't agree with his approach on using Allah, I do understand where he is coming from. It appears that the article that I linked to was an exaggeration at best and at worst, just plan inaccurate.   

Andrew K's picture

"Allah" is the generic, Arabic term for God, and it was used by Arabic Christians long before Mohammed's great grand-daddy ever saddled his camel. It's still used today by Christians in lands with Arabic influence, like Indonesia and Malaysia. 

It's perfectly appropriate to use Allah for God, and American Christians just dislike it because it sounds odd to them for cultural reasons. Well and good, but understand that for others, it doesn't sound odd at all, also for cultural reasons.

Note that I am not addressing the issue of whether the Allah worshiped by Muslims is the Allah worshiped by Christians. That is a separate question, and could likely be answered in different ways, depending on how one means it. But calling God "Allah" should not be an issue.

 

G. N. Barkman's picture

Greg Long, 

Thanks for that observation.  I hope you are correct.  From the descriptions of the branch of his Summit Church close to my home, it appears that he is seeker sensitive.  However, I will suspend my opinion until I have more information.  Perhaps we have different definitions of what that term encompasses.

G. N. Barkman